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The Alter Peat Project: A step towards sustainable growing media

March 27, 2024

The substrate sector is facing a significant challenge: reducing the dependency on peat use in potting soil or other growing media and increasing the proportion of circular raw materials. The goal is not only to find alternatives but also to ensure that these new materials have the lowest possible environmental impact, and that the product is still serving its intended use, which we call “fit for purpose”.

At Kekkilä-BVB, our Innovation department is largely dedicated to investigating how introducing circular materials in our substrates can reduce the need for peat. Our program for this is called Green Growth Raw Materials. The team, consisting of researchers, program managers, and development managers, works tirelessly to realize this dream. They do this not alone, but in close collaboration with the rest of the organization, particularly the product managers who know our Retail and Professional products well and can specify the requirements and specifications the raw materials must meet.

One of their key activities also is collaborating with knowledge institutions and universities to research and define the best use for our new raw materials in terms of performance. This collaboration often takes place within projects that are financially supported at the national or European level.

In addition to several Dutch public-private-partnership (PPS) projects, we also participate in Finnish, French and Flemish public-private-partnership research projects.

The main objective of the Flemish PPS project ALTER-PEAT is the transition to less peat (30%-50% peat replaced) and sustainable cultivation substrates, without a loss of competitiveness for the primary sector. This aligns perfectly with our own ambition to double our use to 3 million m3 circular raw materials in our substrates by 2027, while ensuring they are fit for purpose.

The project aims to achieve this by realizing the following sub-goals:

  1. Inventory, mapping new local and circular raw materials
  2. Development and optimization of peat-reduced cultivation substrates
  3. Demonstration with peat-reduced cultivation substrates

The project has a total duration of 36 months and started in November 2023 with a kick-off meeting with all participants.

During the inventory, a matrix is used to assess new raw materials. The criteria used are physical properties, pollutants (chemical and physical), chemical-biological suitability score, nutrient use efficiency (nutrient balance), and sustainability aspects like availability, cost price and environmental impact. Kekkilä-BVB has internally selected six new raw materials to be investigated in this project.

This project, while serving the sector’s interest, provides us with a wealth of information and access to a broad network. It is a testament to the power of collaboration in the pursuit of sustainable, circular solutions in our industry.